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A home of pasture, creeks and woods for Cusack

May 11, 2011

by Neil Clarkson

Kiwi thoroughbred Cusack does not have internet access, so we're able to give readers a sneak preview of his new home in Kansas before the 11-year-old gelding gets to see it.

Two of Deb's horses enjoy some ball time in the pasture.
Cusack was rescued from a Washington state auction house last week thanks to a fundraising drive and is being boarded at the Back Forte Equestrian Center for a month before his trip east to Kansas, and the home of 58-year-old Deb Johnson.

Deb has high hopes that Cusack will enjoy a career in trail-riding and is looking forward to his arrival on her family's 40 acres, located between Westmoreland and Wamego.

Wamego, about eight miles from her home, has a "Wizard of Oz" museum and the town has a theme based around the movie.

For example, you can enjoy the delights of Toto's Tacos - which Deb says offers the best Mexican food for miles around.

The Johnson's property offers a mix of pasture, woods, creeks and ditch crossings.

"It's wonderful for the horses," she says.

The six horses on the property can wander through the woods, drink from the creeks or spend their time in the pasture areas.

Cusack will begin his time there in a pasture of a little over two acres, where he can get used to the other horses that live on the property. They will be just over the fence.

Next to it is a 12-acre pasture, and that opens into the rest of the property, which the Johnsons shut up to make hay each year. Last season, they got about 35 big round bales.

Deb Johnson on the trail.
Once the hay is taken and when the sugar levels in the grass are down, the horses can have the run of the property.

Deb says people tend to think of Kansas as flat and dry, but the well-wooded northeast corner where she lives is a bit like Colorado.

"It's so green it hurts your eyes," she says.

There are normally six horses on the property, but two are away with trainer Kip Fladland in Iowa. Fladland trained under Buck Brannaman.

Deb has Gunner, a five-year-old registered quarter horse-paint cross. She took Gunner last year after a good friend died. She hopes Gunner will build enough confidence to make a good trail horse, and he is currently with Fladland.

She has also sent registered Arabian Hawk, aged five, to Fladland, with the aim of making him a trail-riding horse.

Deb says she bought Eclipse, 13, her Missouri Foxtrotter, despite knowing she had back problems.

It took 18 months before she was able to ride her, but with lots of back work, she is now making great strides. "She is finally getting to where she is doing really well under saddle."

Little Bit, at just under 13 hands, is a double Driftwood foundation quarter horse. She was her first horse.

"She was started by some big cowboys in California. Her back is not good," she explains.

Deb had always promised Little Bit that life would ultimately provide her a herd of horses and some great pasture, and, living in retirement at Deb's Kansas home, she has delivered on that promise.

Her two boarders are both registered purebred Arabians, Quinn, 5, and Zyia, 7, who belong to her friend, Kelsey Corey.

Kelsey, she says, is a fine horsewoman whose efforts saved the life of Quinn, who had behavioural issues and had faced a grim future without her help.



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